“Voter fraud is all too common,” Trump has been claiming for months. “The only way I can lose…is if cheating goes on,” he promises. “I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us,” he fear mongers. It has worked more brilliantly than parents scaring their kids with horror tales of the bogieman. And we would sit back and laugh our heads off if it weren’t so tragic.
Voter fraud: the phantom menace.
In a mid-October poll, 85% of Trump supporters said voter fraud happens a lot or often. In a another, 73% of Republicans said the election could be stolen from Trump due to wide-scale voter fraud. The thing is, election fraud just doesn’t happen.All those claims of dead people voting, or people voting five times, or illegal immigrants voting by the thousands, or election officials stuffing ballot boxes, are all debunked. Out of 1 billion votes cast between 2000–2014, 31 were found to be fraudulent in one study. Two others in 2012 and 2016 found the same conclusions.
Voter fraud is like razor blades in Halloween apples: a scary myth that won’t ever go away, because despite a complete and utter lack of evidence, people still tell each other stories like “this happened to a real friend of mine!” Actually, it’s worse. It’s like believing in the boogieman who lives under your bed. Because that is exactly how absurd the claim is.
Voter suppression: the shadow war.
On the other hand, voter suppression, intimidation, and disenfranchisement has been a very real and pervasive problem ever since the 14th Amendment. It is happening right now. Google it. This article details the rampant Republican-led suppression in North Carolina. Or see this one that documents GOP-led suppression in Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, and Georgia. An Ohio judge issued a restraining order Friday against the Trump campaign to prevent voter harassment and intimidation on election day. Republicans are making robocalls to confuse or intimidate voters. Twitter had to shut down a scourge of fraudulent tweets trying to convince Clinton supporters they could vote by text.
Guess how many Republicans believe disenfranchisement is a real problem? In a late-October poll, it was only 17%. Less than 2 out of every 10 GOP voters. As you might spect, 66% of Republicans said the bigger problem was voter fraud. Sometimes it’s hard to visualize what all these percentages mean, so here is an infographic to summarize the situation (for the interested reader, the numbers are almost the exact opposite for Democrats).
Need more proof that Republicans believe in the bogieman?
It isn’t just voting where a supermajority of Republicans believe absurd pants-on-fire lies. A Pew poll from early October showed roughly the same percentage of Republicans still deny global warming is due to human activity. 5 out of every 10 Republicans don’t believe in evolution, and a 6th isn’t sure. Almost 7 out of every 10 Republicans still believe President Obama is a Muslim. Need we go on?
For a while it looked like a majority of Trump fans were going to dispute the legitimacy of the election if he loses, with some calling for a “revolution” and a few even threatening a civil war. Fortunately these numbers have been dropping as the election approaches. What is far more likely is that all these lies will persist, and the next candidates will try to harness the same populist support from the “stolen election” bandwagon. Or create a new straw-man witch hunt around which to rally their gullible masses.
Trump vs. America? America will always win.
Yes, there is a lot that divides our country. Yes, there are a lot of people who are very angry. Who feel unheard. Who remember with longing an easier time that they want back. By preying on these wedge issues, campaigns have actively encouraged us to lose sight of what fundamentally unites us.
When John Adams became the 2nd President in 1797, George Washington said “I am rightly out, and you are rightly in.” That seemingly trivial comment commemorated the first democratically organized and peaceful transfers of power in the modern world. Since then, our elections have been heated, contentious, even decided by the Supreme Court, but for 220 years the American people have trusted the process and embraced the outcome.
Whether Trump wins or loses depends on whether you show up to vote. But America will always win, because we have the Constitution, and it is stronger than even Donald Trump.